On May 15, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) filed a Right-to-Know request to all charter and cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania seeking financial and academic information that is subject to disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law (“RTK”), in an effort to better understand the operations, financial needs and expenses of Pennsylvania charter schools (see news release on filing). A Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools spokesperson quickly reacted by suggesting that charter schools should ignore their obligations under the RTK, along with the misleading claim that school districts already have the requested information.
The Coalition’s spokesperson, Lauren Hawk, stated in an interview with the online state political news service Capitolwire that “The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools has no problem with either transparency or full responsiveness to legitimate RTK requests, but when the law is being used to harass, rather than inform, then the requests should be denied.”
PSBA questions why the Coalition would authorize Ms. Hawk to encourage its members to deliberately violate state law.
Additionally, Ms. Hawk suggested that school districts already have access to the information being asked for in the request since they authorize charter schools. In a similar statement, the Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools also made the same claim.
In actuality, the Charter School Law requires that a school district that granted a charter be given access only to certain records of the charter school, and fails to assure any access to records of other charter schools the district pays for resident students to attend. Moreover, the law does not specifically mention financial records as a part of that access, and gives school districts no access at all to the records of cyber charter schools, which are authorized by the Department of Education.
The Right-to-Know Law provides the most efficient means, if not the only means, for PSBA to collect the requested information directly from the source.
The Keystone Alliance also claims PSBA is only interested in the status quo and not ensuring students have access to a “high-quality education.” To the contrary, PSBA is most interested in quality education for all children, including those attending charters and cyber charters, which historically have underperformed traditional public schools in the School Performance Profiles (SPP). Based on a scale of 100, the average SPP score in 2014 for traditional public schools was 76.9, brick and mortar charter schools was 65.1 and cyber charters was 48.9. The Department of Education has indicated a 70-point score or higher is the mark of moving toward success. While there is room for improvement for all schools, it is clear charter schools, especially cyber charter schools, need to be held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools so all students receive a quality education. It would seem the charter proponents are the ones who wish to maintain the status quo.
CONTACT: Steve Robinson, Sr. Director of Communications
(O) 717-506-2450 X-3315